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Tag: Study

Google Ads Audience-Based Campaign Restructure Case Study

May 25, 2020 No Comments

Learn a new Google Ads campaign strategy focused on audience segmentation and how to leverage the segments to drive efficiency.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Case Study: How BDCenter transformed a reputation from 48% negative on Google to neutral

February 13, 2020 No Comments

One can easily translate sign reputation management to income management. Your public image directly affects sales, career and financial well-being in any field – whether searching for an investor, overcoming the negativity spread by your rivals, a change of field, or creation of a new public persona.

But what should you do if there are already lots of negative things written about you on the Internet? In this post, we’ll use one of our actual cases as an example to show how we changed a client’s reputation from 48% negative to neutral.

Disclaimer

This article has been created by BDCenter Digital. We sign an NDA with all our customers. Therefore, all the data that could infringe on the client’s confidentiality have been changed. This doesn’t affect the mechanism of reputation management in any way.

The objective

Our assignment was to make sure that searching for our client’s name on Google in the US would yield zero negative content on the first two search engine results pages (SERPs).

At the time when the client asked us to help improve their reputation, 48% of the top 20 results were negative:

Reputation management for clients name

The team

A total of seven BDCenter Digital team members worked on this reputation improving project, including:

Two SEO specialists + an assistant: Their job was to monitor and analyze search results, work out a strategy to eliminate negativity, and publish content on appropriate resources.

PR specialist: Who identified news-worthy content, contacted the media, as well as prepared and published articles.

SMM specialist: Who created social media accounts for the client and filled them with info.

Project Manager: Who allocated tasks, tracked progress, kept in touch with the client and the team, and evaluated the results.

Designer: Who prepared templates for social media and news resources.

Results

Four months and 560 hours of work later, there was NO negativity left in the top two result pages on Google. Reputation improved!

Read on to find out how we did it.

SEO

Igor Erenkov Artem Shcherbakov Olga Vodchyts
Igor Erenkov Artem Shcherbakov Olga Vodchyts

 1. Identifying resources containing negative content and monitoring changes 

Our first step was to study the SERPs (with our client’s name as the search query) and find the sites that published negative content about him. This helped us understand the scope of the job and see which sites we would have to work with to push all negativity out of the top 20 results.

Every week, we would fine-tune our strategy – since Google often changes its ranking algorithm, we would get slightly differing results every day. For instance, a resource that was ranked as no.1 yesterday might not even be on the first page tomorrow.

For this reason, we checked on the situation once a week and recorded the results in a spreadsheet:

Reputation management spreadsheet identifying resources containing negative content

The color indicates the tonality of each resource relative to the individual in question. The names of sites were removed for the purposes of confidentiality.

Insights

One of the factors impacting how results are placed on a SERP is the age of the content. A new relevant piece of content can easily get a resource in the top 10, but just a week or two later, it can lose around 30 to 50 positions.

2. Posting mentions of the person on various websites

Undesirable information about the client was posted on large resources, one of them with 20 million monthly visitors. One of the obvious solutions was to overcome this negativity by posting positive content on even larger websites.

However, we couldn’t rely on this tool alone for two reasons:

A. High costs: The client would have to pay $ 4000 to $ 5000 per publication, and the actual budget was much lower.

B. Risk of repetitiveness: Google tries to vary its results, filling its SERPs with sites in different formats. Therefore, we decided to post content about our client on the following types of sites:

  1. News websites
  2. Blogging platforms
  3. Profiling sites
  4. Listings
  5. Video hostings
  6. Podcast sites
  7. Social networks
  8. Polls
  9. Interview-centered sites
  10. Client’s corporate pages
  11. Dropped domains
  12. Presentation hostings

3. Optimizing the client’s corporate site

Google prioritizes those sites that are most relevant to the search query. What do you see at the top of the list when googling the name of someone? Depending on the popularity, it can be a Wikipedia article, a corporate website, or a social media account.

Example of optimizing client's corporate website

In our case, the client’s corporate website was among the top results already, but we wanted to strengthen its position. To do this, we optimized the Team page and created an additional page with the client’s bio.

As a result, these two pages ended up in Google’s top three in the US, pushing all the negativity down the list.

4. Using dropped domains

When time is limited and you need a quick result, you can benefit from dropped domains.

A drop is a domain that its owner decided not to pay for any longer and is now for sale. Some of these dropped domains are still indexed by Google, and you can get good results by publishing backlinks there.

After confirming this step with the client, we created a site based on a good dropped domain and published new content on that site. In just a month, the site was ranked among the top five on Google.

5. Pushing negativity out of Google Image Search

The image search also yielded some negative results, so we had to work not only on pushing individual websites out of the top 20 but specific images, too.

Since Google likes unique content, we made sure to use only unique images of the client in our publications and his social media accounts.

Advice

If you don’t have any fresh pictures available, you can edit some of the old ones, changing the background, size, or color profile. This will make Google see them as unique, showing them first.

By the way, changing just the size doesn’t work. Google views such pictures as identical, showing only the one with the best resolution.

Julia Herman
Julia Herman

PR and content

1. Identifying newsworthy materials

The client didn’t have any important news to share, so we had to create it ourselves. In particular, we watched the industry news closely – and as soon as we found something valuable, we confronted the event with our client’s expertise. Thanks to his status and extensive experience, he could provide commentary on the latest research and news for the media.

2. Publishing content

The technique described above provided us with publications on news websites – however, they would allow free coverage only for really important events. Working with niche websites was much easier: we used them to publish expert articles and interviews.

We only chose sites that fit the following three criteria:

  1. Relevance to the subject – wealth management, finance, and investment.
  2. The site had to contain a negative article about our client. Publishing fresh content on the same site would get the old article to rank lower.
  3. Importance – the site’s «weight», or authority, had to be higher or equal to that of the sites that contained negativity, helping to overcome it.

By weight we mean the level of Google’s trust in the resource. This trust is based on the number of visitors, the site’s age and level of optimization.

Advice

If you need quick results, you can get a lot of coverage fast by publishing your content on PR Newswire. Read our recent post on how to do this.

Insights

Our client’s name had to be mentioned in the title: -this helped articles rank much better for our search query.

However, our title headline didn’t always fit the editing guidelines of individual resources: some preferred to list the author at the very bottom of the piece. Such articles weren’t useful to us since they didn’t rank the way we would’ve liked.

We tested this headline theory many times. Even a publication on the gigantic Yahoo! Finance with one mention in the body of the text works worse than an article on a small website, but with the client’s name mentioned in the title, lead-in, and text body.

Svetlana Kopach
Svetlana Kopach

SMM

1. Creating and filling social media accounts

We created accounts for the client on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and other platforms. We didn’t use those social networks that weren’t relevant to the client’s business — such as Pinterest, for example.

Linkedin yielded the best result: Our client’s profile on this platform still ranks as no. 1 in the search results, pushing out the old negative content. Xing, Tumblr, and Instagram didn’t produce any result at all: none of them got into the top 20.

We made sure to fill new social media pages with expert content – mostly pieces for the articles we wrote for the media. Naturally, we always adapted the text for social media. The posts were accompanied by photos of the client: we arranged special photoshoots for that purpose.

2. Posting podcasts and videos

Google prefers content to be varied. So it prioritizes not only fresh articles but also video and podcasts.

We started accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for our client and added several videos: some we created specifically to fit recent news, others were chosen among existing content.

We posted those videos not only on the client’s own accounts but also in other users’ profiles. By the way, it was a video posted on the page of another user that ended up in the top 10 of Google.

As for podcasts, they can work well, too – as long as you post them on popular platforms, such as iTunes or audioboom.com, which has over two million monthly users.

Daria Vechorko
Daria Vechorko

Project Manager’s comments

SERM, or search engine reputation management, combines such tools as SEO, PR, and SMM. In order to leverage this combination with maximum benefit, we utilize the following principles:

  1. Regular strategy updates – since both SERPs and relevant content change all the time, we have to monitor all changes and reassess our action plans when required.
  2. Analysis of the results – we constantly check what works and what doesn’t. This helps us work faster, better, and without wasting our resources.
  3. Daily contact with the client – this way we can quickly make strategic decisions and create fresh content.
  4. Generating relevant content – even though SERM is more about pushing negativity as far down as possible in the SERPs, we are also very serious about what we post – and so are our clients, of course. Content should also be relevant to the objective. In the case, we’ve described that meant niche articles, podcasts, and videos that accentuated the client’s expertise.

Bottomline

Positive reputation achieved for client

By using all these tools, we managed to radically transform the first two Google result pages.  90% of the top 20 were now positive, with the remaining 10% neutral.

Based on our experience with reputation management – and we’ve already worked with a Nobel laureate, several politicians, and CEO’s of financial institutions – your public image can have a tremendous impact on your business and career. By maintaining a good public image on a constant basis is much easier and cheaper than launching major reputation rehaul campaigns once every few years.

To maintain your reputation, make sure to monitor the search results for your name or brand. Select your key search queries and set up alerts: this way you’ll know what Google users see when they look for information about you and will be ready to react to any negativity.

The post Case Study: How BDCenter transformed a reputation from 48% negative on Google to neutral appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


New study: Majority of consumers are unaware of how search engines work

January 22, 2020 No Comments

As brands and their marketing departments deploy strategies to capitalize on record ecommerce spending — which soared to $ 586.92 billion in 2019 — new research from leading provider of brand protection solutions, BrandVerity, has brought to light important findings and hidden risks pertaining to the journeys consumers are taking online.

In order to give brands a better understanding of the search experiences their customers are having and how they are impacting brand perception and customer experience, BrandVerity commissioned the “BrandVerity’s Online Consumer Search Trends 2020” research study in Q4 of 2019 to over 1,000 US consumers, balanced against the US population for age, gender, region, and income.

Amongst the many findings, three main themes stood out:

Consumers confused by how search engine results work

Only 37% of consumers understand that search engine results are categorized by a combination of relevance and advertising spend.

The other 63% of consumers believe that Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are categorized by either relevance or spend, or they simply “don’t know.”

Additionally, nearly 1-in-3 consumers (31%) say they don’t believe search engines (e.g. Google) do a good job of labeling which links are ads.

Consumers more included to click on the result that appears first

Without a clear understanding of how search results are served up, consumers are more inclined to click on the result that appears first, believing it to be the most relevant option.

With 54% of consumers saying they trust websites more that appear at the top of the SERP, this isn’t just an assumption.

Consumers feel misled by the website they find in the search engine results

51% of consumers say that when searching for information on a product, they sometimes feel misled by one of the websites in the search results.

An additional 1-in-4 report feeling misled “often” or “always.”

Even further, 25% also say they often end up somewhere unexpected that does not provide them with what they were looking for when clicking on a search result.

“Against a backdrop where consumers have increasingly high expectations of the brands they do business with, and are holding them to equally high standards, companies must ensure that the entirety of the experiences they provide meet customer expectations,” said Dave Naffziger CEO of Brandverity.

“As these findings show, a general uncertainty of how search engines work, combined with the significant occurrence of poor online experiences, mean oversight of paid search programs is more important than ever for brands today.”

The post New study: Majority of consumers are unaware of how search engines work appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Study: How to use domain authority for digital PR and content marketing

May 11, 2019 No Comments

For the SEO community, Domain Authority is a contentious metric.

Domain Authority (DA) is defined by Moz as

“A search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.”

Some people say that this score does more harm than good because it distracts digital marketers from what matters. Improving your DA doesn’t mean you’re improving your rankings. Others tend to find it useful on its own as a quick way to determine the quality or trustworthiness of a site.

Here’s what I say, from a digital PR perspective, domain authority is valuable when you’re using it to compare sites relative to one another. In fact, DA provides value for us PRs and is incredibly useful to our work.

Think of it this way. There are more websites than ever before, about 1.5 billion to be exact and so in some ways, this means there is more opportunity for marketers to get their content out in the world and in front of new audiences. While most people think that journalism is dying out, an enlightening post on Recode by Rani Molla explains that “while job postings for journalists are off more than 10 percent since 2004, jobs broadly related to content have almost quadrupled.” 

In other words, if outreach is executed well, there are more places than ever to get your content featured and lead to driving traffic, broadening your audience, and improving your search ranking.

But even the most skilled PR teams can’t reach out to 1.5 billion sites. The knowledgeable ones know that you really only need one successful placement to get your content to spread like wildfire all over the Internet, earning links and gaining exposure for your brand in the process. With so many options out there, how do PR professionals know which sites to spend time targeting?

That’s where DA comes into play. When it comes to link building, content marketers know that not all backlinks and brand mentions are created equally. The value of a link or mention varies depending on the referring website. Moz’s DA score is a way for us PRs to quickly and easily assess the quality of the websites we target for our client’s content marketing campaigns.

Our team tends to bucket online publishers, blogs, and websites into three categories:

  • Top-tier
  • Mid-tier
  • Low-tier

Keep in mind, particularly with the new Moz update, when deciding who to pitch, you must take a holistic approach. While domain authority is an excellent way to quickly assess the quality of a website, a site’s DA can change at any minute due to a multitude of factors, so make sure you are also taking into account your goals, the site’s audience, social following, and reputation as well as Moz DA score. In response to a Marketing Land tweet about the new DA, Stevie Howard says it perfectly.

Screenshot of Stevie Howard's tweet in response to a Marketing Land tweet about the new DA

Top-tier sites

What constitutes a top-tier website? Can a top-tier site have a low DA? Potentially, but it’s uncommon.

When you look at the holy grail of media coverage, DA tends to align perfectly. Take, for example, the following seven major publishers that any brand or business would love to earn coverage on. The DA scores for all of these sites fall above 90. These sites all have an extremely large audience, both on-site and on social media.

List of top tier sites having a DA score of 90 and above

Our team at Fractl has an innate sense of the online publisher landscape, and the largest and most well-known content publishers out there all tend to have a domain authority above 90. This is what we consider to be the “top-tier”.

These publishers are difficult to place with because of their large audience, social following, and reputation, so for the best chance at earning organic press mentions on these sites, offer them authoritative, unique, exclusive, and newsworthy content.

Mid-tier sites

Mid-tier sites may not be the holy grail of news publishers, but they’re our bread and butter. This is where the majority of placements tend to happen. These publishers hit a sweet spot for digital PR pros—they’re not as sought-after as Buzzfeed and don’t deeply scrutinize pitches the way The New York Times does, but they have large audiences and tend to be much more responsive to content pitches.

I tend to categorize the mid-tier as publishers that fall within a DA of 66 to 89. Here are some examples of publishers that may be considered mid-tier.

List of mid-tier publishers that have a DA of 66 to 89

Low-tier sites

Don’t underestimate a low-tier site simply because of its domain authority. For example, it wasn’t long ago that personal finance website, Money-ish, had a DA of 1. Launched in 2017, it was first its own website before being absorbed as part of the larger MarketWatch domain. MarketWatch has a DA of 93, with social engagement as high as 12,294,777 in the last year. If you ignored Money-ish because of its DA when they first started, you would have missed out on a chance to get your content featured on MarketWatch as well as build relationships with writers that are now under the MarketWatch umbrella. There are all types of content, and most marketers can figure out which projects have “legs” and which have less appeal. These lower-tier sites are often very niche and the perfect home for content that is aimed towards smaller, more precise audiences. These lower-tier sites also tend to have a high engagement where it matters, your target audience. Consider the site’s community. Does this site have a ton of email subscribers or high comment engagement? Are they killing it on Instagram or on another social network? You never know which site will become the next Money-ish, either!

List of low-tier sites with DA below 60 or 65

Pitching differences for each tier

There are plenty of sites that fall within different ranges of domain authority that would be an excellent fit for your content. It all just depends on your goals. In Fractl’s latest internal study, we were able to identify trends in the way journalists respond to PR professionals, based on the DA of the site they write for.

Graph on how journalists respond to PRs based on their sites DA score

Observations

  • Feedback from writers working for sites with a DA lower than 89 was most likely to be complimentary of the content campaigns we pitched them.
  • The verbiage of their responses was also more positive on average than those from journalists working for publishers with a DA of 90 or above.

An example of the feedback we received that would be labeled as complimentary is,

“Thanks for sending this over, it fits perfectly with our audience. I scheduled a post on this study to go up tomorrow.”- Contributor, Matador Network (DA: 82)

Those of us that have been pitching mainstream publishers for a while know from experience that it’s often easier to place with websites that tend to fall in the mid to low-tier buckets. Writers at these publishers are usually open to email pitches and open to writing about outside content because such websites have less stringent editorial guidelines.

Conversely, publishers that fall into our definition of “high-tier” were less positive on average than writers working for publishers with a DA less than 90. On average, the higher the DA, the less positive the language becomes.

Why might that be? It makes perfect sense that publishers like The New York Times, CNN, TIME, and The Washington Post would be less positive. They’re likely receiving hundreds of PR pitches a day because of their popularity. If they do respond to a pitch, they want to ensure that they’re inquiring about content that would eventually meet their editorial guidelines, should they decide to cover it.

According to our study, when journalists at publishers with a DA of 90 or above do respond, they’re more likely to be asking about the methodology or source of the content.

An example of this feedback is from a staff writer at CNN.

“Thanks for sending along. I’m interested to know more about the methodology of the study.”

A response like this isn’t necessarily bad, in fact, it’s quite good. If a journalist is taking time to ask you more about the details of the content you pitched, it’s a good indication that the writer is hoping to cover it, they just need more information to ensure that any data-driven content is methodologically-sound.

Conclusion

Domain authority will continue to remain a controversial metric for SEOs, but for those of us working in digital PR, the metric provides a lot of value. Our study found a link between the DA of a site and the type of responses we received from writers at these publishers. High DA sites were less positive on average and requested research back methodologies more than lower-tier sites. Knowing the DA of a site allows you to:

  • Improve your list building process and increase outreach efficacy
  • Customize each outreach email you send to publishers of varying DAs
  • Anticipate the level of editorial scrutiny you’re up against in terms of content types and research methodologies
  • Optimize content you create to fit the needs of your target publisher
  • Predict the outcome of a content campaign depending on where you placed the “exclusive”

Remember, just because a site has a high DA, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good fit for your content. Always be sure to take a holistic approach to your list building process. Keep in mind the social engagement of the site, the topics they cover, who their audience is, their editorial guidelines, and most importantly, the goals of you or your client before reaching out to any publisher solely based on domain authority.

Domenica is a Brand Relationship Manager at Fractl. She can be found on Twitter @atdomenica.

The post Study: How to use domain authority for digital PR and content marketing appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


SEO case study: How Venngage turned search into their primary lead source

April 27, 2019 No Comments

Venngage is a free infographic maker that has catered to more than 21,000 businesses. In this article, we explore how they grew their organic traffic from about 275,000 visitors per month in November 2017 to about 900,000 today — more than tripling in 17 months.

I spoke with Nadya Khoja, Chief Growth Officer at Venngage, about their process.

Venngage gets most of their leads from content and organic search. The percentage varies from month to month in the range of 58% to 65%.

In Nov 2017, Venngage enjoyed 275,000 visitors a month from organic search traffic. Today (16 months later) it’s 900,000. Nadya Khoja (their Chief Growth Officer) extrapolated from their current trend that by December of 2019 (in nine months) they will enjoy three million organic search visitors per month.

Screenshot of Venngage's statistics

In 2015, when Nadya started with Venngage, they saw 300 to 400 registrations a week. By March of 2018, this was up to 25,000 a week. Today it’s 45,000.

While Nadya had the advantage of not starting from zero, that is impressive growth per any reasonable metric. How did they do it?

Recipe

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. I’ll do my best to explain them, and how they tie together. There is no correct order to things per se, so what is below is my perspective on how best to tell this story.

The single most important ingredient: Hypothesize, test, analyze, adjust

This critical ingredient is surprisingly not an ingredient, but rather a methodology. I’m tempted to call it “the scientific method”, as that’s an accurate description, but perhaps it’s more accurate to call it the methodology written up in the books “The Lean Startup” (which Nadya has read) and “Running Lean” (which Nadya has not read).

This single most important ingredient is the methodology of the hypothesize, test, analyze, and adjust.

What got them to this methodology was a desire to de-risk SEO.

The growth in traffic and leads was managed through a series of small and quick iterations, each one of which either passed or failed. Ones that passed were done more. Ones that failed were abandoned.

This concept of hypothesizing, testing, analyzing, and adjusting is used both for SEO changes and for changes to their products.

The second most important ingredient

This ingredient is shared knowledge. Venngage marketing developed “The Playbook”, which everyone in marketing contributes to. “The Playbook” was created both as a reference with which to bring new team members up to speed quickly, as well as a running history of what has been tested and how it went.

The importance of these first two ingredients cannot be overstated. From here on, I am revealing things they learned through trial and error. You have the advantage to learn from their successes and failures. They figured this stuff out the hard way. One hypothesis and one test at a time.

Their north star metrics

They have two north star metrics. The first one seems fairly obvious. “How many infographics are completed within a given time period?” The second one occurred to them later and is as important, if not more so. It is “how long does it take to complete an infographic?”

The first metric, of course, tells them how attractive their product is. The second tells them how easy (or hard) their product is to use.

Together these are the primary metrics that drive everything Venngage does.

The 50/50 focus split

As a result of both the company and the marketing department having a focus on customer acquisition and customer retention, every person in marketing spends half their time working on improving the first north star metric, and the other half spend their time working on improving the second.

Marketing driving product design

Those north star metrics have led to Venngage developing what I call marketing driven product design. Everywhere I ever worked has claimed they did this. The way Venngage does this exceeds anything ever done at a company I’ve worked for.

“How do I be good?”

This part of Nadya’s story reminds me of the start of a promo video I once saw for MasterClass.com. It’s such a good segue to this part of the story that I cropped out all but the good part to include in this article.

When Steve Martin shed light on an important marketing question

I’ve encountered a number of companies through the years who thought of marketing as “generating leads” and “selling it”, rather than “how do we learn what our customers want?”, or “how do we make our product easier to use?”

Squads

The company is structured into cross-functional squads, a cross-functional squad being people from various departments within Venngage, all working to improve a company-wide metric.

For example, one of the aspects of their infographic product is templates. A template is a starting point for building an infographic.

As templates are their largest customer acquisition channel, they created a “Template Squad”, whose job is to work on their two north star metrics for their templates.

The squad consists of developers, designers, UI/UX people, and the squad leader, who is someone in marketing. Personally, I love this marketing focus, as it de-focuses marketing and causes marketing to be something that permeates everything the company does.

There is another squad devoted to internationalization, which as you can infer, is responsible to improve their two north star metrics with users in countries around the world.

Iterative development

Each template squad member is tasked with improving their two north star metrics.

Ideas on how to do this come from squad members with various backgrounds and ideas.

Each idea is translated into a testable hypothesis. Modifications are done weekly. As you can image, Venngage is heavy into analytics, as without detailed and sophisticated analytics, they don’t know which experiments worked and which didn’t.

Examples of ideas that worked are:

  • Break up the templates page into a series of pages, which contain either category of templates or single templates.
  • Ensure each template page contains SEO keywords specific for the appropriate industry or audience segment. This is described in more detail further in this document.
  • Undo the forced backlink each of the embedded templates used to contain.
    • This allowed them to get initial traction, but it later resulted in a Google penalty.
    • This is a prime example of an SEO tactic that worked until it didn’t.
  • Create an SEO checklist for all template pages with a focus on technical SEO.
    • This eliminated human error from the process.
  • Eliminate “React headers” Google was not indexing.
  • Determine what infographic templates and features people don’t use and eliminate them.

Measuring inputs

I personally think this is really important. To obtain outputs, they measured inputs. When the goal was to increase registrations, they identified the things they had to do to increase registrations, then measured how much of that they did every week.

Everyone does SEO

In the same way that marketing is something that does not stand alone, but rather permeates everything Venngage does, SEO does not stand alone. It permeates everything marketing does. Since organic search traffic is the number one source of leads, they ensure everyone in marketing knows the basics of technical SEO and understands the importance of this never being neglected.

Beliefs and values

While I understand the importance of beliefs and values in human psychology, it was refreshing to see this being proactively addressed within an organization in the context of improving their north star metrics.

They win and lose together

Winning and losing together is a core belief at Venngage. Nadya states it minimizes blame and finger-pointing. When they win, they all win. When they lose, they all lose. It doesn’t matter who played what part. To use a sports analogy, a good assist helps to score a goal. A bad assist, well, that’s an opportunity to learn.

SEO is a team effort

While it is technically possible for a single person to do SEO, the volume of tasks required these days makes it impractical. SEO requires quality content, technical SEO, and building of backlinks through content promotion, guest posting, and the others. Venngage is a great example of effectively distributing SEO responsibilities through the marketing department.

To illustrate the importance of the various pieces fitting together, consider that while content is king, technical SEO is what gets content found, but when people find crappy content, it doesn’t convert.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

This requires no elaboration.

But what you measure matters

This probably does justify some elaboration. We’ve all been in organizations that measured stupid stuff. By narrowing down to their two north star metrics, then focusing their efforts to improving those metrics, they’ve aligned everyone’s activity towards things that matter.

The magic of incremental improvements

This is the Japanese concept of Kaizen put into play for the development and marketing of a software product.

Done slightly differently, this concept helped Britain dominate competitive cycling at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Customer acquisition is not enough

Venngage developed their second north star metric after deciding that acquiring new customers was not, in and of itself, any form of the Holy Grail. They realized that if their product was hard to use, fewer people would use it.

They decided a good general metric of how easy the product is to use was to measure how long people take to build an infographic. If people took “too long”, they spoke to them about why.

This led them to change the product in ways to make it easier to use.

Link building is relationship building

As a reader of Search Engine Watch, you know link building is critical and central to SEO. In the same way that everyone in Venngage marketing must know the basics of technical SEO, everyone in Venngage marketing must build links.

They do so via outreach to promote their content. As people earn links from the content promotion outreach, they record those links in a shared spreadsheet.

While this next bit is related to link building, everyone in Venngage marketing has traffic goals as well.

This too is tracked in a simple and reasonable way. Various marketers own different “areas” or “channels”. These channels are broken down into specific traffic acquisition metrics.

As new hires get more familiar with how things work at Venngage, they are guided into traffic acquisition channels which they want to work on.

Learning experience, over time

My attempt here is to provide a chronology of what they learned in what order. It may help you avoid some of the mistakes they made.

Cheating works until it doesn’t

Understanding the importance of links to search ranking, they thought it would be a good idea to implement their infographics with embedded backlinks. Each implemented infographic contained a forced backlink to the Venngage website.

They identified a set of anchor text they thought would be beneficial to them and rotated through them for these forced backlinks.

And it worked, for a while. Until they realized they had invited a Google penalty. This took a bit to clean up.

The lessons learned:

  • The quality of your backlinks matter.
  • To attract quality backlinks, publish quality content.

Blog posts brought in users who activated

At some point, their analytics helped them realize that users who activated from blog posts where ideal users for them. So they set a goal to increase activations from blog posts, which led to the decision to test if breaking up templates into categories and individual pages with only one template made sense. It did.

Website design matters

Changing the website from one big template page to thousands of smaller ones helped, and not just because it greatly increased the number of URLs indexed by Google. It also greatly improved the user experience. It made it easier for their audience to find templates relevant to them, without having to look at templates that weren’t.

Lesson learned: UI/UX matters for both users and SEO.

Hybrid content attracts

Hybrid content is where an article talks about two main things. For example, talking about Hogwarts houses sorting within the context of an infographic. This type of content brings in some number of Harry Potter fans, some of whom have an interest in creating infographics. The key to success is tying these two different topics together well.

Content is tuneable

By converting one huge templates page into thousands of small template pages, they realized that a template or set of templates that appeal to one audience segment would not necessarily appeal to others. This caused them to start to tune templates towards audience segments in pursuit of more long tail organic search traffic.

How did they figure out what users wanted in terms of better content? They used a combination of keyword research and talking with users and prospects.

Some content doesn’t make the cut

After they caught onto the benefits of tuning content to attract different audience segments, they looked for content on their site that no one seemed to care about. They deleted it. While it decreased the amount of content on their site, it increased their overall content quality.

Traffic spikes are not always good news

When they initially started creating forced backlinks in their infographics, they could see their traffic increase. They saw some spikes. Their general thought was more traffic is good.

When they experienced the Google penalty, they realized how wrong they were. Some traffic spikes are bad news. Others are good news.

When your website traffic shows a sudden change, even if you’re experiencing a spike in organic search traffic, you must dig into the details and find out the root cause.

Lesson learned: There is a thing as bad traffic. Some traffic warns you of a problem.

Links from product embeds aren’t all bad

They just needed to make the embedded links optional. To allow the customer to decide if they do or do not deserve a backlink. While this did not cause any change to their levels of organic search traffic, it was necessary to resolve the Google penalty.

Boring works

Incremental continuous improvement seems repetitive and boring. A one percent tweak here, a two percent tweak there, but over time, you’ve tripled your organic search traffic and your lead flow.

It’s necessarily fun, but it delivers results.

Lesson learned: What I’ll call “infrastructure” is boring, and it matters. Both for your product and your SEO.

Figure out what to measure

The idea of measuring the amount of time required to complete an infographic did not occur to them on day one. This idea came up when they were looking for a metric to indicate to them how easy (or difficult) their product was to use.

Once they decided this metric possibly made sense, they determined their baseline, then through an iterative process, making improvements to the product to make this a little faster.

As they did so, the feedback from the users was positive, so they doubled down on this effort.

Lesson learned: What you measure matters.

Teach your coworkers well

They created “The Playbook”, which is a compendium of the combined knowledge they’ve accumulated over time. The playbook is written by them, for them.

Marketing employees are required to add chapters to the playbook as they learn new skills and methods.

Its primary purpose is to bring new team members up to speed quickly, and it also serves as a historical record of what did and did not work.

One important aspect of continuous improvement is for new people to avoid suggesting experiments that previously failed.

Additionally (and I love this), every month everyone in marketing gives Nadya an outline of what they’re learning and what they’re improving on.

Their marketing stack

While their marketing stack is not essential to understanding their processes, I find it useful to understand what software tools a marketing organization uses, and for what. So here is theirs. This is not a list of what they’ve used and abandoned over time, but rather a list of what they use now.

  • Analytics: Google Analytics and Mixpanel
  • Customer communications: Intercom
  • Link analysis and building: Ahrefs
  • Link building outreach: Mailshake
  • Project management: Trello
  • General purpose: G Suite

In closing

To me, what Nadya has done at Venngage is a case study in how to do SEO right, and most of doing it right are not technical SEO work.

  • Help senior management understand that some things that are not typically thought of as SEO (website design for example) can have serious SEO implications.
  • Get senior management buy in to include these non-SEO functions in your SEO efforts.
  • Understand what very few basic metrics matter for your company, and how you measure them.
  • Distribute required SEO work through as many people as reasonably possible. Include people whose job functions are not necessarily SEO related (writers, designers, UI/UX, and more).
  • Test and measure everything.
  • Win big through a continuous stream of small incremental improvements.

Venngage has surely lead by example and all the guidelines and pointers shared above can surely help your organization implement its search for increased sales.

Kevin Carney is the Founder and CEO of the boutique link building agency Organic Growth. 

The post SEO case study: How Venngage turned search into their primary lead source appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Deals, Deals, Deals! A Promotion Ad Copy Case Study

April 2, 2019 No Comments

When it comes to best practices in digital marketing, practitioners should embrace a “trust, but verify” mindset. Specifically, adopt best practices when possible, but don’t assume that they’ll improve performance – every account exists in a different context with a multitude of different intervening variables that can affect the impact of any initiative. One such best practice that deserves interrogation is the adoption of promotions in ad copy in Google Ads.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Canada, France Plan Global Panel to Study the Effects of AI

December 7, 2018 No Comments

The International Panel on Artificial Intelligence will be modeled on a group formed in 1988 to study climate change and recommend government policies.
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Study: Why do marketers still struggle with innovative search tactics?

March 31, 2017 No Comments

Many marketers who are seeing flagging returns from their search marketing campaigns might wonder what they’re doing wrong – especially if they’ve already got best practices like accurate site descriptions and keyword optimization covered.

But a new study commissioned by Microsoft’s Bing and search agency Catalyst, and carried out by Forrester Consulting, may have some light to shed onto why marketers aren’t realizing the full potential of search.

The study, whose findings are written up in a whitepaper, ‘Prioritize Search to Maximize ROI of Marketing‘, found that more advanced search marketing tactics like local inventory ads, voice search optimization, sitelinks and schema markup have low adoption by marketers, who may not even know about them.

In addition, marketers struggle to properly integrate search with other channels in order to take advantage of the demand which they themselves have created.

“We too often see advertisers spending significant dollars in, let’s say, TV, and then failing to fully fund their search campaigns,” says Rob Wilk, Vice President of North America Search Sales at Microsoft.

“So if a consumer hears a message somewhere and then decides to search on Bing to get more information, many times the advertiser isn’t present, and that consumer ends up taking a different path than what the advertiser would have desired.

“In a worst case scenario, consumers come to search and end up clicking on a competitor ad. Think about that for a moment – clients are spending their dollars to line the pockets of competitors.”

So what do Bing and Catalyst think is keeping search marketers from tapping into the full potential of their campaigns, and how can they go about addressing the problem?

Challenges in allocation and attribution

The study’s findings drew on online surveys of 300 US-based marketing agencies and B2C advertisers, together with Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data.

Wilk explained that Bing and Catalyst commissioned the study to “better inform the market about the importance of looking at search not just as an individual, effective marketing channel, but to clearly articulate the benefits of closely aligning all media spend in concert with search advertising investments.”

Overall, respondents to the survey gave a high rating to the ROI they receive from search marketing, with 74% of respondents who were investing in search giving its ROI a rating of “excellent” or “good”.

However, 53% of marketers cited cross-media attribution as one of their top three challenges in budget allocation, with another 53% citing a lack of data to inform strategy; 44% also cited measurement as one of their top challenges.

“Competing business demands force marketers to rely on hard attribution data to develop and support their cross-channel investment strategies,” notes the study.

“Unfortunately, their attribution models today do not necessarily paint an accurate reflection of the consumer engagement with cross-channel touchpoints, which inhibits them from moving budget fluidly from channel to channel.”

Kerry Curran, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Marketing Integration at Catalyst, adds:

“The majority of the data supports that consumers consistently use and value paid search, and marketers find it to be a strong ROI driver; however, adequate budget allocation is still a challenge.

“With competing business demands and attribution data that does not measure cross-channel impact, paid search marketers are struggling to fully invest in their programs.”

Search marketers still aren’t being innovative enough

Those of us who keep close tabs on search innovation and strategy – or comment on it – are fairly familiar with concepts like retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA), voice search optimization, ad extensions in paid search listings, schema markup, and so on.

But for the majority of marketers, advanced tactics like these go far beyond what they would use for their campaigns. When asked which of a range of tactics their company used or was planning to use in 2016, only 34% of marketers reported using ad extensions; 30% used Product Listing Ads (PLAs); and 28% used retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA).

Just 28% of respondents reported using voice search optimization in their campaigns, 27% said they used sitelinks, and a dismal 17% reported using schema markup. (Findings like this shed light on why, even now, less than 1% of websites are using schema.org vocabulary to mark up their webpages).

I asked Wilk and Curran why they thought that marketers weren’t going the extra mile with their search marketing tactics. Was it due to a lack of expertise, or perhaps just budget and time?

“It’s all of those reasons,” replies Wilk. “Doing all of the tactics well in search requires constant learning, constant testing and of course constant optimization.

“These days, all marketers are being asked to do more with less, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. So in a world of squeezed time and resources, clients and agencies are forced to make trade-offs, and often the tactics mentioned tend to get a lower priority.

“Eventually clients do get to these things but every query we see, whether it’s voice, on desktop or mobile is a perishable good. That “magical” moment of someone expressing clear intent comes and goes in an instant. Getting ahead of these trends, and sticking to them, is where the return on investment lives.”

Curran adds: “There are so many advanced search tactics already available, and as search engines continue to innovate, they continue to release new options and update existing features.

“While the advanced tactics can drive campaign improvements, alignment between the search engines, paid search teams, and brand is required to roll out and test new tactics.

“In addition to the intricacies of day-to-day management, search marketers need to prioritize the opportunities, budgets, and resources to allow for testing in a manner that provides statistical significance.”

What can marketers do to improve their search campaigns?

It’s one thing to pinpoint where the problems might be, but if marketers want to take concrete steps to improve their search marketing, where should they begin?

“One – prioritize their search budget,” says Rob Wilk.

“Two, when running media campaigns – especially expensive TV commercials – marketers need to make sure they have strong search campaigns so that consumers can easily engage with the brand and find what they are looking for via search engines.”

“Three, make sure they have full alignment across all channels. Marketers must keep their ear to the ground when it comes to search.

“We have billions of moments every month where consumers express their desires, and marketers must tap into this wealth of data to inform marketing decisions in terms of what message to deliver, to whom and in what way.”

The search industry is constantly innovating, and it might seem overwhelming for marketers with limited time and resources to try and keep on top of developments. However, as we’ve seen, there is a large number of advanced search tactics available that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of.

Investing in even one of these tactics could prove to have significant benefits for search marketing ROI, which would pay dividends in the long run.

Search Engine Watch


Fake news’ power to influence shrinks with a contextual warning, study finds

January 23, 2017 No Comments

warning system Research conducted by social psychologists at Cambridge University in the UK, and Yale and George Mason in the US, offers a potential strategy for mitigating the spread of misinformation online — involving the use of pro-active warnings designed to contextualize and pre-expose web users to related but fake information in order to debunk factual distortion in advance. Read More
Social – TechCrunch


Online Retailers

Top Online Retailers Lag in Mobile Experience [Study]

November 26, 2013 No Comments

With the holiday season fast approaching, and the mobile device playing a big role in the shopping experience, online retailers should put their mobile shopper front and center.

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